Why meal planning by theme is so easy

How can meal planning by theme help you?

When you meal plan by theme, you get variety without so much time and brain effort! I love to meal plan for a month at a time, and by using themes, I fill in a month of meals quickly.

It’s easy to add as much or little variety as you’d like, and, because you’re sticking to themes, it’s pretty easy to switch to a different meal one night.

If you decide you’re just not in the mood for tacos, you might want taco casserole instead.

You probably already have the ingredients to switch it out, so you’re still saving time and money by meal planning, but you keep the flexibility to change your mind!

This is also really helpful for scheduling purposes –  if you have chicken alfredo planned for that week’s italian meal, but then because you’ll be gone and walking in the door at 6pm,  you know you need a meal you can make ahead of time. 

You can swap it out for an easy baked ziti – which you could make the day before and leave in the oven (on the timer feature!) or the slow cooker.

Meal Planning by Theme Idea List

Grab your meal planning sheet and let’s get started!

Themes for meal planning:

Mexican

Enchiladas (These chicken enchiladas are SO good!)
Taco bowls
Taco soup
Taco casserole (AKA Lawnmower Taco!)
Tamale pie (I would use homemade cornbread for this!)
Tostadas
Sheet pan fajitas
Burritos
Tacos (I make my own taco seasoning and it’s so good!)

Guacamole should always be served with Mexican food!

Italian

Spinach baked ziti (Learn how to rock freezer cooking like a boss!)
Lasagna
Stuffed shells (I add cooked italian sausage to my filling)
Chicken broccoli alfredo (I use whole milk, not skim)
Chicken parmesan casserole

A simple Italian chopped salad as a side rounds out the meal quickly.

Greek

Greek bowls
Mediterranean chicken bake (I use chopped olives instead of the tapenade)
Pita chicken sandwiches
Greek 7 layer dip
1 pot Greek meatballs and rice

Of course you’ll need some homemade tzatziki sauce for Greek night!

And it’s hard to beat fresh pita bread, hot from the oven.

Asian

Fried rice (I don’t add the peas called for, because I hate them) Can add chicken, shrimp, etc.
Beef and broccoli
Orange chicken
Teriyaki chicken noodle bowls
Shrimp and broccoli stir fry
Easy Thai chicken

Cook some rice, steam some veggies, and you’re all set for an Asian food feast at home.

Grilled

Hamburgers
Hotdogs
BBQ chicken
Simple grilled chicken (This marinade is SO good!)
Steaks

Baked (in the instant pot!) or roast potatoes and a quick salad or tray of raw veggies are all you need to finish these meals. Easy peasy!

Soup and bread

Minestrone
Tomato soup and grilled cheese
Chili and cornbread
White chicken chili
Italian sausage soup

I usually have some chewy italian loaves in the pantry, or I can mix together these drop biscuits in a couple minutes. They go great with soup!

Pizza night

Homemade pizza has endless possibilities, or you can use pizza night as your night off from cooking – order in!

Or do a pizza variation:

Calzones
Stromboli

Breakfast for dinner (Brinner!)

Waffles (Our favorite waffle recipe!) and sausage
Pancakes and bacon (There are a million pancake recipes in the world, and you might already have a favorite, but I use the Bulk Batch Pancake recipe in the cookbook Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook. Which is a SUPER cookbook, btw!)
French toast (I use whatever bread I have on hand)
Biscuits and sausage gravy (I usually serve scrambled eggs with this meal)

I like to blend up a smoothie on brinner night, too.

American/homestyle

Meatloaf (Not linking a recipe, because making mealoaf is about as personal as tuna salad, lol)
Pot roast (I skip the cornstarch in this recipe)
Roast chicken
Chicken pot pie
Chicken and biscuits

Potatoes or rice and some roast veggies with the meat-heavy main dishes in this category make for hearty and delicious meals!

Seafood

Salmon patties
Spicy shrimp skillet (I use chicken broth in place of the white wine because $$)
Coconut crusted tilapia
Simple Mahi mahi (I heat some coconut oil in a skillet, add mahi mahi, and drizzle with coconut aminos. When I flip the fish, I drizzle again with coconut aminos.)

Again, potatoes or rice and roast veggies complete these meals quickly (and cheaply)!

More meal planning theme ideas


These are the meal planning themes that I use most often when I’m meal planning for a month at a time. I mainly stick cuisine-type themes, but you could also focus more on cooking type, like most of these:

Slow cooker
Instant pot
Skillet meal
Meatless
Salad/raw
Leftovers
Sheet pan
Casserole

If you’re just getting started meal planning by theme, stick with themes you think will be well liked by your family – so if you’ve never served fish or asian food before, wait a month or two to try out those themes. You want to see success quickly when you first start meal planning by theme!

Whether you meal plan for a month at a time or a week at a time, using themes can save you time and give you variety. Try adding a new theme next time you plan!



Tell me!

Now I want to hear from you! Have you even planned meals by theme? What’s your favorite theme to use?

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